Inheritance Dispute Lawyers

It is not uncommon for inheritance disputes to arise over the course of estate administration or trust administration. Since inheritance disputes can stir up quite a bit of emotion, the parties involved may seek the help of inheritance dispute lawyers to help resolve the issues.

Because the inheritance dispute attorneys at Keystone Law Group practice exclusively in probate law, they are highly skilled in their field and possess unmatched experience and expertise in the state of California. Inheritance lawyers at Keystone will fight tooth and nail to ensure you get what’s rightfully yours. Learn more below.

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Why Should You Hire an Inheritance Dispute Attorney?

After losing a loved one, the last thing you want to have to think about is dealing with the complexities of the probate process or with the possibility that the decedent’s final wishes, as expressed through their will or trust, could be thwarted because of an inheritance dispute. But, by hiring an experienced inheritance dispute lawyer to oversee the process and handle any disputes that may arise during it, you can focus on grieving your loss and leave the heavy lifting up to your attorney.

There are numerous legal matters that call for the intervention of an inheritance attorney. California law, for example, does not always require that a decedent’s assets pass through formal probate. Property held in a trust is also not subject to formal probate, nor does California require a probate for small estates. This means that a decedent’s assets can pass to their designated beneficiaries with little to no court supervision. An inheritance attorney, nevertheless, may be needed to ensure beneficiaries receive the inheritances to which they’re entitled.

California law also provides interested parties with the ability to petition the court for orders that may help them avoid a probate that otherwise may have been required through such means as a Spousal Property Petition, which enables a decedent’s surviving spouse to petition for orders confirming their interest in the decedent’s estate without a formal probate.

But complications in the form of inheritance disputes can arise in any circumstance — even in instances where an estate did not undergo formal probate. For instance, a surviving spouse may file a Spousal Property Petition to bypass probate, but the deceased spouse’s family members may contest the surviving spouse’s right to certain assets on account of those assets having been the deceased spouse’s separate property. Or, an inheritance dispute may arise during administration of a decedent’s trust, which is not subject to formal probate proceedings. Whatever the context, inheritance disputes can be made much easier if you have a qualified inheritance attorney in your corner to help you navigate them.

Keystone attorneys’ practice areas include:

Counseling Trustees

Trustees have a huge job on their shoulders, and unlike executors and administrators, who are held accountable by the court, trustees only have beneficiaries to hold them accountable. A qualified California trust lawyer can counsel and assist trustees with their trustee duties. They can also provide legal guidance when trust-related decisions need to be made to ensure the trustee stays protected against liability.

Accounting Disputes

Trustees are responsible for preparing periodic accountings to provide to beneficiaries and heirs. Depending on the size and complexity of the trust, this can be a burdensome task to take on by oneself. To prevent future accounting disputes, trustees should strongly consider hiring a California trust attorney to check their accountings or prepare them on their behalf.

As for beneficiaries, if an accounting seems off, or if certain trust assets are not accounted for, it is a good idea to hire a California trust lawyer to inspect the accountings for errors or signs of misconduct or negligence on the part of the trustee. If your trust and estate attorney agrees that the accountings are problematic, they can help contest the accountings in court. A California trust attorney can also help trustees defend accountings that are being contested.

Property Disputes

Perhaps the decedent executed a trust but failed to transfer the titles of the property mentioned in the trust into the trust’s name before they died. Perhaps two siblings jointly inherited a house through a trust, and now a partition action must be brought because one sibling wants to sell the home and the other doesn’t.

Anytime the assets held by a trust are the subject of a dispute, a California trust litigation lawyer may be needed to help resolve the dispute. 

Trust Contests

Suppose that an adult child moved into the home of their dying parent under the pretense of caring for them, but then, by becoming close to the parent, persuaded them to drastically change their trust to disinherit their other children and make the adult child who moved in the sole beneficiary. Or, suppose that a patient with dementia created and executed a trust. Both of the aforementioned scenarios present valid grounds for contesting a trust

Trust contests can only be brought for very specific reasons in California (disliking the trust’s provisions is not one of them). And they can only be brought by someone with standing (i.e., a party who has financial stake in the trust). A California trust attorney can assist you with determining whether you have the grounds and standing to contest a trust.

Removal and Surcharge

If you suspect that a trustee is engaged in misconduct or is being negligent with their duties, it is important to get in touch with a California trust attorney as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of more financial harm befalling the trust. If your lawyer agrees with your claims about the trustee, they may be able to enter a petition with the court to remove and surcharge the trustee for the damage they caused to the trust.

Elder Abuse Claims

Mental capacity can start to decline at old age, leaving elders susceptible to financial abuse. Often, elder financial abuse takes the form of someone close to an elder unduly influencing the elder or perpetrating fraud against them to cause them to drastically modify their trust to favor their abuser. A California trust lawyer can help investigate and litigate these types of claims to recover the property that was lost and damages. A California trust lawyer can also defend anyone who has been accused of elder financial abuse.

Spouses, Children and Unmarried Couples

If you are the surviving spouse of a decedent, you have certain inheritance rights. In California, which is a community property state, spouses are entitled to one-half of all community property (i.e., property that was acquired over the course of a marriage by either spouse), with certain limited exceptions.

Children are generally not guaranteed an inheritance from their deceased parent, but they still have certain rights as heirs of a decedent. Unmarried cohabiting couples may have inheritance rights as well, but enforcing them may be difficult. Children and unmarried cohabitating partners of decedents should work with a California trust attorney to ensure they receive the inheritance they are due.  

Common Inheritance Disputes

A beneficiary is entitled to receive the inheritance the decedent left them through their will or trust. When this does not happen, or if they encounter delays in receiving their inheritance, an inheritance dispute may arise.

For instance, a decedent’s will or trust could call for the executor of an estate or the trustee of the trust, respectively, to divide the decedent’s assets equally among their three children; however, the executor or trustee could fail to distribute the assets or mismanage the assets. When the executor of an estate or the trustee of the trust does not comply with their fiduciary duties by making proper and timely distributions to beneficiaries, an inheritance dispute will likely emerge, causing beneficiaries to bring a claim against the executor or trustee.

The following are common reasons for inheritance disputes:

 

  • Improper division of assets
  • Ambiguities within a will or trust/misinterpretation of the will or trust
  • Undue influence by someone close to the decedent to coax them into making drastic changes to their will or trust (this type of inheritance dispute generally requires the filing of a trust or will contest)
  • Creator of the will or trust lacked the mental capacity to execute the document in question
  • Will or trust leaves gifts to “disqualified persons” (e.g., caregivers, fiduciaries)

One should try to avoid inheritance disputes whenever possible; however, sometimes, doing so is impossible if one is seeking to receive the inheritance to which they are entitled. Every inheritance dispute comes with a unique set of obstacles, so if you are amid a challenging probate or trust situation, it would be wise to consult with an inheritance or estate attorney if you have not already taken this step. In California, an inheritance attorney can help you wade through complicated probate matters and understand what your rights are as a beneficiary or heir.

Inheritance Attorneys to Help You Navigate California Law

Keystone’s inheritance dispute attorneys focus exclusively on probate litigation and administration, enabling them to have a breadth of knowledge surrounding their practice area that few other attorneys possess. What’s more, it is their mission to be constantly expanding and honing their expertise. They make it a point to routinely update themselves on probate developments and cases in order to provide their clients with effective and aggressive representation. This is why they are highly respected by judges, peers and clients alike.

Keystone’s inheritance dispute attorneys have:

  • Been certified as Specialists in Estate Planning and Trust and Probate Law (State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization).
  • Presented on probate litigation and administration topics at professional conferences for attorneys, CPAs and more.
  • Taught estates and trusts to law students.
  • Received accolades from leading legal publications, such as Daily JournalBest Lawyers and Super Lawyers.
Who We Help

Services Provided by Keystone's Inheritance Dispute Attorneys

The inheritance dispute lawyers at Keystone Law Group are adept at helping clients navigate all aspects of the administration process and any inheritance disputes that may arise during it. Keystone can provide counsel to anyone involved in an inheritance dispute, including:

Trustees of Trusts

Trustees may have questions about what their role should be in inheritance disputes. Inheritance attorneys can help clarify their role and protect them against liability.

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Executors and Administrators

Executors and administrators may find themselves at the center of inheritance disputes. Inheritance attorneys can help them make the right decisions so they are protected against liabilities.

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Beneficiaries

Every beneficiary is entitled to the inheritance they were left by the decedent through their will or trust. An inheritance dispute attorney can help them ensure they get it.

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Spouses of Decedents

A surviving spouse has community and separate property rights in California. Inheritance lawyers can help them navigate California’s complex spousal laws.

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Creditors

Inheritance disputes can arise if a decedent’s assets are distributed before a decedent’s creditors are paid or if a decedent’s estate or trust refused to honor the creditor’s valid claims.

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Victims of Elder Financial Abuse

When it comes to light that a decedent had fallen victim to financial abuse, inheritance dispute attorneys can help the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs recover the property that was lost as a result of the abuse, as well as damages.

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Attorneys-In-Fact

When a person’s attorney-in-fact — a type of fiduciary who has been granted authority to act on behalf of another person through a power of attorney document — breaches their fiduciary duties for personal gain, an inheritance dispute attorney can help to bring or defend a claim against the attorney-in-fact and potentially recover damages.

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What We Do

Our Practice Areas

Litigating and Administering Estates
Litigating and Administering Trusts
Contesting Wills and Trusts
Establishing and Contesting Conservatorships
Bringing and Defending Elder Financial Abuse Claims
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Contact our Inheritance Dispute Lawyers

If you are involved in an inheritance dispute or any other type of probate litigation, our probate attorneys can help. Contact the inheritance dispute lawyers at Keystone Law Group, P.C., today to learn more about what we can do to enforce your legal rights and protect your interests. Call us at (310) 444-9060 or schedule a free consultation with a California inheritance attorney now.